HIBBING — It is said that college basketball is a point-guard driven game, and the Hibbing Community College women’s basketball team will get a first-hand look at that during the 2018-19 season.
That’s because Cardinal coach Kate Brau doesn’t have a lot of height on the inside like she had last year with Diana Clement and April Hudelson.
Instead, Hibbing will have to rely on plenty of shooters and ball-handlers when it opens play on Wednesday, Nov. 21, against Leech Lake in the Activities Building.
Last year, the Cardinals advanced to the Region XIII finals, but lost to Northland in the title game. Hibbing finished 22-7 overall, and 9-3 in the Northern Division, which was good for third place.
This year, it’s going to take that same kind of effort to get back into the tourney.
“We’re optimistic, but we have to take it game-by-game,” Brau said. “You never know what can happen. As long as we stay together, stay healthy, compete and continue to play aggressive, we should have a solid season.”
Brau does have three experienced players off of that team, including Hannah Morris of Grand Rapids, Shauna Kavajecz of Port Wing, Wis., and Stacie Lokken of Nashwauk-Keewatin.
Morris earned Second-Team All-Division honors, and she was a part of the All-Defensive team last year.
Kavajecz is a solid defensive player, averaging three steals per game. She also shot well from beyond the arc. Lokken made her contributions by shooting 40 percent from the three-point line.
There’s one other sophomore, Sherae’ Cherenfant from Deland, Fla. She’s a transfer from a Division I junior college out east.
She scored 1,500 points at Deland High School, which has a student enrollment of 2,500.
“To have her on our team adds a different style of play, but at the same time, an aggressive style of play that fits well within our team,” Brau said. “She handles the ball well, has a great presence on the floor and she has wonderful court vision.
“That will complement our twos, threes, fours and fives well. She’s a great person and a great player.”
Brau said she loves recruiting locally, but she won’t hesitate to bring in players from the across the nation, if available.
“Basketball differs from state-to-state,” Brau said. “We also recruit on an international level because of the kind of play that can contribute to our team. Florida basketball is different from Minnesota basketball, but she has adapted and transitioned very well into our program.”
Incoming freshmen include, Bethany Baldwin of Watersmeet, Mich.; Madeline Mann of East St. Paul, Manitoba; Alexis Desjarlait of Red Lake; Klaryssa Whelan of Bemidji; Savannah Deragon and Savannah Duffy of Bayfield, Wis.; and Rachel Scott of Hibbing.
Baldwin is a 2,000-point scorer, who had games of 56 and 63 points during her senior season; Mann is a three-point shooter, with the ability to attack the rim.
Desjarlait, who is tough-nosed competitor, scored 2,000 points during her high school career; Whelan will be one of the post players at 5-feet-11-inches tall; Deragon is a solid shooting guard; Duffy is another 5-11 post player, who should be a presence on the inside; and Scott is a hard worker, who will contribute to the team with her skills on the floor.
Brau likes her team but she’s used to having post players over that six-foot mark. That might not matter as much because the Cardinals did perform well at the MCAC Jamboree, even with a smaller lineup.
“That was a concern going into the season,” Brau said. “I didn’t have my traditional 6-1 posts that I’ve been accustomed to having the last four years. At the jamboree, we competed well with those teams.”
Without that height, Hibbing will be able to play an up-tempo game this season, but that will all be predicated on the Cardinals’ ability to play defense.
“Our defense extends the length of the court,” Brau said. “We defended well (at the jamboree), not only on the perimeter, but on the inside. We were physical, we rebounded and we were extremely aggressive.”
Hibbing allowed just 53.8 points per game in 29 contests last year, competing against some nationally-ranked teams. If the Cardinals get that kind of effort again, they won’t have to score many points to win.
“I think we can score 54 points this year,” Brau said. “We need to make sure that we execute our team defense, so that’s the greatest concern for us.”
Scoring shouldn’t be a problem, especially with two 2,000-point scorers and numerous 1,000-point scorers on the roster.
“We think we can get the ball to the rim,” Brau said. “That’s a solid foundation we look to build on.”
A lot of Hibbing’s offense could come from beyond the three-point arc, but Brau believes her team will be able to penetrate into the lane better.
“Last year, we had a strong outside presence and a solid inside presence, but we weren’t a great penetrating team,” Brau said. “This season, we can shoot the three and we can attack the rim aggressively, both in the transition and half-court set.
“We weren’t certain how our inside game was going to be, but it’s proving to be solid.”
Defenses won’t be able to single out any one Hibbing player to defend because the Cardinals have plenty of weapons to on the outside.
Of the 11 players on the roster, 10 of them are capable shooters from the outside.
“They can shut one or two of them down, but we still have a third, fourth or fifth player that they have to be concerned about,” Brau said. “Overall, things are looking up. It’s a long season. The teams stay together, win together. We’ve had a solid first month, and we look for four more of them this season.”
As far as the Northern Division goes, Brau knows her team will have to earn every win it gets.
“When I recruit and talk to players, I always say this is some of the best basketball in the nation,” Brau said. “Already, there’s a number of programs that look competitive, and we’re one of them. It’s going to be another season of tough play in the north and south divisions.
“We have to handle every game with care, and make sure we’re at our peak at tournament time. This is one of the best teams I’ve had, and we’re optimistic for that National Tournament with this team.”
Brau has a 60-54 overall record in her five seasons on the bench for the Cardinals.